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Roman Imperial expansion part of a political game

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Gaming the Past
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So, with the summer almost here but still work days at school, I am starting to improve on my classroom simulation SPQR on political competition in the mide Republic (aristocrats struggling to outperform and win more offices and honros than their peers.
(my school did a little article on last year's run that kind of gives the flavor. https://www.countryday.net/news/news-posts/~post/students-re-enact-chaos...)

Note: Yes this shares some conceptual elements with Republic of Rome. RoR, however, is far too complex, lengthy, and nit-picky to get the feel I want (plus mine works for at least 8 players). Even so, trust me, I would never have designed my own games on political competition and imperialism over the years if RofR were a viable classroom game.

The big task this year is to create a more dynamic & fluid system expansion system in the Mediterranean, driving player-aristocrats to compete.This is not a war game. It is a political competition game based on gaining influence that can be spent to win elections or ding other players similarly trying to hold office.
Since the focus is about aristocratic competition in the Republic the geopolitics of the Mediterranean need to feel important but not dominate -- this is not a military strategy game.

So my first step has been to take my map and create boxes for influence cubes. Regions where Rome has significant influence have some red Roman cubes to start. Everything else is neutral wood cubes to represent the regional power.

The goal for Rome as a whole (represented by the fractious aristocrat players) is to put Roman cubes in all the areas.

There will be some rules on expansion order: for example, Rome must have 2 influence in Macedonia before it can have any influence in Asia Minor.)

The part I am working on now is how to have yearly Mediterranean challenges to influence that make sense of the Roman's current role. Rome will always be able to send an army and try to gain influence somewhere (following order of expansion rules), but regional powers should also challenge Roman influence (so if Rome has a cube in an area, that can provoke a fight.)
So, for example, Asia Minor and Egypt should not generate events until late game. Gaul can invade and Hispania can challenge Roman influence. Then when Macedonian influence is gained Macedonia can enter the mix. Maybe decks of cards for each reason that get incorporated into a big event deck as the ROmans gain influence? I like the idea of decks. I used to do it with a table and dice, but I don't like that so much.

Last thing, I moderate the game now, but I am trying to get a design that will play without me, which could then lead to a tabletop commercial version. So a bot of some sort is the answer.

Feedback on this or any part of the system is welcome.

let-off studios
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Fewer Cubes, Automation

Why not leave out the natural-coloured cubes? Add cubes only when Rome has influence in a region. If a region is empty, then it has no Roman influence. This may help cut down on the fiddly-ness of components.

And regarding automation, I think you're on the right track in terms of creating an Event Deck. Whether you stage the deck for certain regions being active later in the game (as you mention Asia Minor and Egypt), or you shuffle-in or re-shuffle an Event Deck with new cards added each time (as in something like Pandemic), there are a number of elegant ways to go about it.

Best of success on your design. :)

Gaming the Past
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let-off studios wrote:Why not

let-off studios wrote:
Why not leave out the natural-coloured cubes? Add cubes only when Rome has influence in a region. If a region is empty, then it has no Roman influence. This may help cut down on the fiddly-ness of components.

Excellent point! Thanks and thanks for the good wishes
Do you have any other games you can recommend with event decks that I can study?

let-off studios
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Recommendations

Off the top of my head, I suggest you have a look at two sprawling games that take advantage of event cards quite heavily: Talisman (which I seem to keep coming back to for examples, both good and bad) and Arkham Horror. The game Betrayal at House on the Hill also seems like a strong candidate for you, though it also uses a pair of game books for later in the game, when the plot thickens to a conflict. I'd say it's still worth having a look at.

Gaming the Past
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let-off studios wrote:Off the

let-off studios wrote:
Off the top of my head, I suggest you have a look at two sprawling games that take advantage of event cards quite heavily: Talisman (which I seem to keep coming back to for examples, both good and bad) and Arkham Horror. The game Betrayal at House on the Hill also seems like a strong candidate for you, though it also uses a pair of game books for later in the game, when the plot thickens to a conflict. I'd say it's still worth having a look at.

Thanks -- I will check them out; I know of them all but haven't played any (sadly). I think the other thing I'm going to do is work out a flow chart of the logic that I would like the Mediterranean system to employ. It occurred to me that I started that when I specified some rules to limit the spread of Roman influence to conform more to historical patterns. I was going to just jump into some card making, but I think this is a better way for me to tackle it. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Thanks again!

let-off studios
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Historical Timeline Variance

One option you may want to investigate is the idea of a certain subset of events that happened during a certain point in history, and allow some variance to impact the game at that point.

For example, you can identify a 10-year period, and perhaps 12 different significant events that occurred within that time frame. Create a card for each, and label the card backs with that time period. For each game, players would set up their event deck by shuffling and drawing 3 cards from this period, along with the other eras, and stack them in chronological order. The cards not drawn are disregarded for that particular game, to be brought out the next time a game is started.

As an alternative, you can have specific events for a time period all occur, but in a random order. Have you ever played Agricola or the little-known Kickstarter gem, ElfQuest? There are known events that will eventually occur, but the order in which they occur isn't set. The order in which they emerge alters player strategy and how the players react to the situation.

Fri
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Ludologly about twlight struggle/rough influnce spreding system

Here's a link to a Ludology podcast that talks a lot about specific games with event decks:

http://ludology.libsyn.com/ludology-episode-43-twilight-snuggle

Also since these are game with strongly history themes you may find it doubly interesting.

I tried to work out a nice way to represent the spreed of influence with cubes. I haven't completely figured it out, but I got far enough to that I think it may be useful. You could have each region produce influence cubes once they have reached a certain thresholds. (A threshold could be something like for every 2 cubes a new is produced) Players can choose spread their influence to surrounding regions or fortify their control of their region. Once the surrounding regions meet certain thresholds they would also start to produce influence cubes. You could try limit the number of cubes that can exist in an area to try to foster competition to control an area. It also seems that there should be a way for the influence cubes to diminish over time. One way would be to remove one cube for each surrounding region that you don't have a majority of cubes in. Its defiantly not a fully fleshed out idea, feel free to use disregard or improve upon.

Good luck with your game.

Gaming the Past
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RE: Historical Timeline Variance

Good suggestions; I have played Agricola a little (my gaming pedigree is much poorer than I wish it were) and I get what you are saying about event decks. The good news in this case is that I don't really need specific events, but a good-enough system. So from my perspective both as history teacher and designer, I don't need, say, a "Second Macedonian War" to occur with the Roman players by name and time. What I need to be reasonably historically authentic is the Romans to feel some pressure to engage to defend areas where they have influence on the map and, every so often, some card that would justify in their minds expanding influence to new areas through war or, to a lesser extent, diplomacy. You've given me some good ideas to do that. Have not actually begin the putting it down part, but basically some kind of logic that says,"One of the (Macedonian/Gallic/Spanish) areas that you have influence in is being threatened." Or, when the time is right from expanding influence, new card possibilities, "Diplomatic crisis in Asia Minor warrants your attention with an army." That's all shorthand but hopefully it makes sense. Your suggestions are definitely helping me think around it.

Gaming the Past
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Fri wrote:Here's a link to a

Fri wrote:
Here's a link to a Ludology podcast that talks a lot about specific games with event decks:

http://ludology.libsyn.com/ludology-episode-43-twilight-snuggle

Also since these are game with strongly history themes you may find it doubly interesting.

I tried to work out a nice way to represent the spreed of influence with cubes. I haven't completely figured it out, but I got far enough to that I think it may be useful. You could have each region produce influence cubes once they have reached a certain thresholds. (A threshold could be something like for every 2 cubes a new is produced) Players can choose spread their influence to surrounding regions or fortify their control of their region. Once the surrounding regions meet certain thresholds they would also start to produce influence cubes. You could try limit the number of cubes that can exist in an area to try to foster competition to control an area. It also seems that there should be a way for the influence cubes to diminish over time. One way would be to remove one cube for each surrounding region that you don't have a majority of cubes in. Its defiantly not a fully fleshed out idea, feel free to use disregard or improve upon.

Good luck with your game.


Thanks, Fri! That sounds like a very interesting mechanic for a living realm with expanding influence. As of the moment, the only way that Roman influence will grow is through the Romans (players) actively engaging and choosing to increase influence, but I'm going to tuck your idea away as I work on this and I may very well want to have some dynamic growth.

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